Summary: The Easter story as told by Peter to Cornelius in Acts 10.
The Good News of Peace with God
Michael Green writes the truth when he says:
"Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenets of belief. Without faith in the resurrection--there would be no Christianity at all. The Jesus Movement would have fizzled out like a damp firecracker--if he had not conquered death."
As Martin Luther once wrote, "The gospel does not explain the resurrection. The resurrection explains why we have the gospels." As C. S. Lewis reminds us, the resurrection was the foundation of every sermon in the book of Acts.
(-- From a sermon by Eric Ritz)
That includes this one from Acts 10.
* * * * * *
Read Acts 10:23-24:
Ac 10:23 The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along.
Ac 10:24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
Peter is walking to meet the gentile, Cornelius, and proclaim to him the Gospel. We can imagine how Peter had to rethink some of the foundations of his Jewish faith during the long walk up the coast to Caesarea. What would he say to this heathen army officer, this Roman Centurion, who was ruthlessly occupying his country? He and the others with him were Jews – Messianic Jews to be sure, believers in the Messiah Jesus – but still Jews. And Jews were taught to have no contact with Gentiles.
When he and the group arrived, Cornelius had already gathered "his relatives and close friends."
Read Acts 10:24-25:
Ac 10:25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence.
Ac 10:26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
The army Captain tried to fall at Peter’s feet to offer him humble worship. But Peter had to explain (as Paul will later in 14:15) that he was not God, only a servant of God’s good news. How ready Cornelius was to hear the Good News Peter had for him! And how believing in what God’s voice had spoken to him!
Read Acts 10:27-29:
Ac 10:27 Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.
Ac 10:28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.
Ac 10:29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
Inside the house there was “a large gathering of people.”
It was more than a few family members and friends (10:24). What a turnout met Peter and the other believers.
Peter began by explaining that, though Jewish traditions did not allow him to associate with a person from another religious background, it was God who had showed him the day before that no person was to be called impure or unclean.
The vision was of a sheet lowered from heaven in which are various kinds of animals, some clean and some of which are unclean according to Jewish law. Mixing the “clean” with the “unclean” animals would have rendered all the animals “unclean” in his mind. So Peter refused to kill and eat any of them.
“No, Lord; I’ve never eaten anything that was unclean or impure. It’s ungodly, don’t you know?” (cf. v. 14).
And God replies, “Peter, I say it is OK!! Three times I say it is OK. Is that good enough for you?” And Peter does get the message, even as Cornelius’ envoys arrive at Peter’s door.
Which brings us to ask the question: Are there people we consider unclean and impure? People we don’t associate with? There are aren’t there?
Maybe they have aids; maybe they are Muslim; maybe have a different skin color and live in a poor and high crime area; maybe they their culture and tastes and music and age is very different than mine and I don’t like it. Maybe they are rich and lawyers, or even worse… politicians! Or radical liberals, or rabid conservatives.
It was a pleasure and an education to walk for two hours on Good Friday through the Hamilton Hill neighborhood with some 100 or more fellow Christians. We walked the Stations of the Cross and sang hymns and songs to God’s glory. And we saw up-close the needs and humanity of the Hill. There are no unclean and impure people to our God.
If we consider them “untouchable” then how will we ever get close enough to them to share the gospel with them? Yes, we must be careful that we influence them more for Christ than they influence us. But that is why we have the Body of Christ; to be with us and pray for us and keep us from going astray alone.